10 Ways to Create a Cozy Earthern Atmosphere

No need to stick with earth tones when you want a warm and inviting effect: cool neutrals and pretty shades of blue can do the trick. Here’s how top designers make this mix work, with results that are as cozy as they are calming.

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June 14, 2017
By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Sarah M. Young

Photo By: Dustin Peck

Photo By: Kathy Peden

Photo By: Emma Lewis

Photo By: Darren Setlow

Photo By: Anand Vissa

Photo By: Holland Williams

Photo By: Mick Hales

Photo By: Regan Baker Design Inc.

Photo By: Johnathon Allen

Soft and Sophisticated

In a townhouse master suite, designers Miggy Mason and Roisin Giese created a look that’s elegant and refined, and more than a little bit romantic. “We used a palette of gray and cream to keep the bedroom feeling airy and serene,” say the designers. “Coral accents add warmth and contrast.” A simple drapery with a Greek key trim creates privacy and light control, and also brings another soft layer into the room. An upholstered headboard from Cisco Brothers was customized with extra height for added drama and paired with beautiful warm walnut bedside tables with hidden storage to create a bit of edginess to the room's otherwise tranquil and inviting color scheme.

Cottage Chic

For clients adding a living room to their main floor, designer Ally Peck created a bright, functional hang-out space rich in texture and interest, but not in color: The walls, ceiling, upholstery, and area rug are all white, with the only pops of true color coming from the soft blue and red accents of the throw pillows. “By mixing materials we were able to bring warmth to the space through texture," says thed esigner. "The rustic beams on the ceiling were from an old barn in North Carolina and repurposed to add interest to the space. The fireplace surround is a mixture of four different types of stone, each one hand selected to create the perfect combination. Keeping the walls, ceiling and trim white enabled the fireplace and beams to stay the focal point but also allowed the wooded backyard to become part of the room.”

Dressed For Company

“We gave this room a relaxing and cozy feel with a muted color palette,” says designer Susan Kosonocky, who had the walls painted in beige and chose bedding in shades of flax and silvery blue. She had the antique dresser updated with white chalk paint and new silver-toned hardware, and then finished the elegant composition with reflective touches: a focal-point mirror above the dresser and a trio of mercury glass vases.

Rustic Revival

Despite its small size, this cozy living room has a bold personality, thanks to designer Clare Morton’s unexpected design choices. A warm gray provides an enveloping background that helps balance the large expanse of glass opposite without feeling dark or heavy; the geometric-patterned rug grounds the space from below. Against this backdrop, a simple, modern off-white sofa provides a comfortable place to perch, and a reclaimed wood coffee table lends interesting texture. The combination of elements—including the pair of prints above the sofa—is offbeat and eclectic, and succeeds in creating a rustic atmosphere despite the light and airy color palette.

Seaside Airs

In the bedroom of a Maine summer cottage, a sea-inspired palette of crisp white and fresh, watery blue creates a laid-back, yet comforting retreat. “The owner’s decorating style perfectly complements the old Maine cottage," says the architect who oversaw the update. "The rustic bureau with crystal knobs was recovered and repurposed from an original built-in piece, a vintage metal bed was sourced at a local antique shop, and a rattan and metal basket was transformed into a pendant light.”

Classic Combination

For the living room of a traditional family home, designer Rajni Alex stuck with a neutral pattern, adding character with oversized patterns, a hint of blue, plenty of texture, and soft upholstery. “I love the juxtaposition of clean and crisp whites with the variety of natural materials and fibers that we featured throughout—the bamboo floor lamp, a rustic wood and iron coffee table, and the natural woven Roman shades,” says Alex.

Finding Flow

In an open-plan living area, creating a feeling of coziness while maintaining the open and airy effect can be a challenge. Here, designer Ashley Gilbreath gave a beach house hang-out zone its own inviting identity by piling on the pillows, adding blue throw pillows to the already overstuffed sofa and pair of armchairs. Because the color palette stays within a tight zone of whites and neutrals, the effect is in keeping with the beachy location—yet soft and soothing at any time of year.

Made For Entertaining

For a party-perfect living space, it’s important to consider style, function, and comfort, as designer Ken Gemes did in this light and lovely living room. “This pale gray room with water-colored curtains and accents in shades of teal, taupe, and sage offers the perfect area for entertaining guests,” he says. “The three-cushion sofa upholstered in teal velvet and the club chairs in dove gray are as comfortable as they are appealing. Plenty of pull up options such as garden stools and benches allow the group to expand during the evening.”

Woodsy Nook

Here’s designer Regan Baker’s recipe for a perfect reading nook: Take an underused end of a room, panel it in natural wood, add thick cushions and soft pillows in a mix of grays and blues and voila—an ideal spot to spend an afternoon with a favorite story or taking a nap. 

Light and Bright Library

As Henry Ward Beecher famously noted, “books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.” Accordingly, when creating cozy warmth is a priority, consider a wall of bookshelves. You’ll add storage, interest, and color to your room—even in a space with a neutral or even all-white palette like in this soaring library designed by Hugh Randolph Architects.